Category Archives: dinner

Carbonara – The Gluten-Free, Vegetarian Way

carbonaraI see Pasta Carbonara recipes on the cooking channels all the time. They look wonderful, creamy, yummy. It just always seemed complicated or too tricky. And, I don’t eat bacon, of course. But, that didn’t stop me from giving it a try and finding a fantastic, quick ,and decadent dinner. Trust me, it sounds strange if you haven’t tried it, or if you are a meat-eater and want to add bacon, go right ahead. I don’t think it’s missing anything without the bacon. The Parmesan gives it a salty, creamy texture and the eggs add a bit of protein and a hearty flavor. I used spaghetti, but go ahead and try it with penne or even fusilli if you like. I know I’ll be making this again since it’s so easy and comforting.

Veggie Carbonara, Gluten-Free Style

3/4 lb of gluten-free spaghetti (I used Trader Joe’s corn pasta, you can use what you like. I used about 3/4 of the bag)

2 eggs

1/4 cup half & half (maybe a little less, depending on how big your eggs are. Mine were on the small side)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1 cup chopped broccoli and cauliflower

olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder

1 Tbs chopped fresh parsley

1. Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. When it comes to a boil, salt the water and add the pasta, cooking for 8 minutes (or whatever the instructions are for the pasta you are using).

2. While the pasta is cooking, add olive oil to a sauté pan and add cauliflower and broccoli. Add a bit of salt and sauté until brown and softening. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, add eggs, half & half and most of the Parmesan and mix well with a fork. Add a pinch of salt/pepper.

4. Drain the pasta, reserving a bit of the water in case you need to soften up the sauce.

5. Here’s the important part—take the saute pan off the heat and then add the drained pasta to the pan. Coat with the oil in the pan, and then add the egg mixture, tossing to get all the noodles coated. The sauce will thicken up as the eggs set, but as long as it’s off the heat you won’t have scrambled eggs instead. If it’s too thick, just add a little bit of the reserved cooking water to thin it out.

6. Top with a bit more Parmesan if you like, and the chopped fresh parsley.

If you don’t have broccoli and cauliflower in your fridge (I had a small bag of mixed), go ahead and use zucchini or even sauté some carrots. The veggies don’t matter, you can even leave them out and just make it plain. You probably have a couple of eggs and a bit of half & half in the fridge. That really all you need, along with Parmesan and pasta. Be creative.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Filed under broccoli, cauliflower, cheese, cooking, dinner, egg, eggs, gluten free, pasta, vegetarian

Margarita Monday at Cien Agaves

margarita

It was date night last night and we wanted to hit the town. But, where to go and what to eat? That may seem like a general point of discussion for most couples, but for us the discussion then veers toward the “what can you eat there?” conversation. Do they have vegetarian options? Are those vegetarian options gluten free? Oh, so many discussions and so many restaurants are crossed off the list. Oh, I’m not complaining; I choose not to eat meat. But the gluten-free part of the discussion is always a bit of a pain. Not only does it have to be GF, but I have to feel safe eating there.

I recently saw a new restaurant, Cien Agaves, in Old Town Scottsdale that boasted 100 types of Tequila. We are tequila fans, and margarita fans, and Mexican food fans (when it’s done right.) I sent off an email to the manager asking what was gluten free on the menu. I didn’t receive an answer back (OK, I only gave them 4 hours to answer. Could be my issue there.) So, we decided to be brave and give it a try anyway. I am so glad that we did.

The restaurant is interesting in a sports-bar-crossed-with-a-casual-Mexican-restaurant kind of way. But we were instantly comfortable there and seated quickly and with a smile. We made it there for Happy Hour (3-7 p.m.) and ordered two Cien Margaritas (see the yummy photo above). At just $3.50 each during Happy Hour, it’s my kind of deal. Not only was it yummy, but it had just the right amount of salt. I love a bartender that doesn’t crust the edge of the glass with so much salt that it looks like a rock-candy edge. Thank you! (We ordered a second round a bit later. Yes, they were that good.)

When I asked the server about gluten-free options, I was all ready for the glassy-eyed stare and “I don’t know” response I normally get. Instead, he whipped out a small, printed piece of paper with gluten-free and vegetarian options listed. He said the chef created this list for servers so they had all the info they needed. Now, right away I loved this place and its attention to detail. But what I really loved was the list itself. There was a column for “gluten free” and vegetarian a column for “maybe.” Maybe? Explained in a box next to these were the explanation for the maybe. The corn tortillas are gluten free, but are made in a factory that makes flour tortillas. Why do I Love this? The chef knew enough to know that some of us may be highly sensitive and some others are not and choose to eat things “made in the same facility” as gluten items. Thanks!

I chose two veggie tacos (corn tortillas) with strips of peppers, onions, zucchini and more, and lots of cheese (Oh Heaven!) and one Papas con Queso, which was a taco with beautifully sautéed new potatoes and cheese. I topped these off with a side of black beans (no rice, I think we decided it was not vegetarian) and the house-made guacamole, which was amazing. Unfortunately, the chips were not gluten-free (fried in the same oil as flour tortillas) so I ended up putting the guac on my tacos, which was even better and I’ll do that every time. Even better…the tacos are not that expensive, just $3.50 for the vegetarian and a bit more for the meaty versions. (Husband had one pork and one chicken taco and said they were excellent.)

This morning I received a thoughtful reply from the manager at Cien Agaves answering all my questions and basically giving me the same info I got last night. That’s a prompt response in my experience from a busy restaurant. Too bad I was in such a hurry and so darned hungry. Or actually, not bad at all. We’ll be returning there soon.

So, be brave and give new restaurants a try. If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t eat there. I have no problem walking out and finding someplace else to eat if I don’t feel safe eating someplace. But sometimes, it all works out.

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Filed under dinner, gluten free, restaurants, review, taco

Gluten Free Ciabatta Pizza

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Once again, I failed to plan for lunch and found myself famished while working. Improvising proved to be a good thing again when I created these little beauties. I grabbed a package of Schar’s Ciabatta rolls and sliced them into three thin slices. They are thick enough and make the perfect crust for an impromptu pizza. I just used two rolls and got six little pizzas, enough to share.

Gluten Free Ciabatta Pizza

2 Schar Ciabatta Rolls
3 TBS olive oil
Pinch of garlic powder, salt, pepper, cayenne, basil
6 TBS marinara sauce
3 TBS grated Parmesan
6 TBS shredded Mozzarella

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Mix olive oil with spices in a small bowl
3. Distribute olive oil mixture evenly over bread slices
4. Bake rolls for about 5-9 minutes
5. Layer 1 TBS marinara, 1/2 TBS Parmesan and 1 TBS mozzarella on each slice
6. Broil on low for about 3 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Enjoy, and try to keep everyone from stealing these. I’m thinking about trying these for my next book club since they are so easy and so good. Maybe a bit of spinach next time?

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Filed under cheese, cooking, crust, dinner, gluten free, marinara, mozzarella, pizza, Pizza Crust, quick meal, vegetarian

Veggie-stuffed peppers

This is a quick and yummy meal that I thought up at the last minute. I was watching the Food Channel and saw someone making a traditional stuffed-pepper meal, meaning hamburger and bread crumbs. Uhm, not gonna work. But I remember loving my Mom’s stuffed peppers when I was a kid. So, with my daughter by my side, we came up with an even better, gluten-free, vegetarian version.

Quick and easy veggie-stuffed peppers

Veggie-stuffed Peppers

3 large peppers (I prefer red or orange since they are a little sweeter)

1 1/2 cups chopped mushrooms

1/2 chopped zucchini

1 large sweet onion, diced

olive oil/salt/pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

1 bag Trader Joe’s frozen Jasmine rice (about 2 cups)

1 cup shredded Mexican cheese

Oregano, basil (dried)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Place olive oil, onions and garlic in saute pan and cook till tender. Add salt and pepper.

3. While onions are cooking, slice the top off the peppers. (when choosing peppers, try to pick out ones that will stand on their own.) Clean out the peppers and leave whole, placing them in a glass baking dish or pie pan so they stand on their own, then dice up the tops and reserve those for the filling.

4. Add peppers to the pan and saute till tender, then mushrooms to the pan and saute till brown.

5. Add zucchini last and cook for a few minutes until just tender.

6. Finally, add the rice, a bit more olive oil, oregano, basil, salt & pepper to taste. Cook until the mixture is warm and mixed well.

7. Fill each pepper halfway, then add a pinch of cheese (a little less than 1/4 cup) in each one.

8. Finish filling peppers and mound it on top.

9. Top off each pepper with another pinch of cheese.

10. Bake for about 30 minutes, then let sit for about 10 minutes. (These are piping hot inside and so good you’ll burn your mouth for sure.)

These can also be made with brown rice (which I didn’t have at the time) and any veggies you have hanging around in the fridge. It’s a great way to use up any leftover veggies, just saute with some rice and stuff a pepper. Enjoy!

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Filed under cheese, cooking, dinner, dinner parties, dinner party, egg-free, gluten free, mushrooms, quick meal, rice, squash, vegetarian, zucchini

I found the best GF pizza!

The good news is I finally found the best GF pizza out there and I didn’t have to make it. The bad news is that it’s in New York City and they don’t deliver this far. Last week in NY with my daughter, I ate my way through the gluten-free plates of the city and boy, are there a lot of them. If we lived in the city, my friends, we would be complaining a lot less about the quality, price, and taste of the gluten-free offerings out there. Seriously.

Yes, that’s gluten free. And yes, it was amazing!

Ok, that’s fine you say, but what about the pizza? I discovered Keste Pizza and Vino while searching the Internet for GF food. It’s a small place, so small you could miss it and walk right past it if you weren’t paying attention like we did. But it’s worth the walk, and worth the search, trust me. Mondays and Tuesdays are GF days for pizza, although they serve it all week. Mondays and Tuesdays, I was told, are exclusively GF to lessen the cross contamination. Sounded good to me, and since we happened to arrive in the city on a Tuesday, that was music to my ears. It was also egg-free, which made my daughter very happy.

The tiny storefront for Keste Pizza & Vino

The restaurant is tucked into a sweet part of Greenwich Village and conveniently right across the street from a gelato store. There are just a few tables, and I found out later that it can get crowded with a long wait, but we got there early and got lucky. The staff is wonderful, attentive and very friendly. We were seated and had menus and wine right away. Our friends had salads, which they said were very good. I was saving space for pizza.

We ordered a basic Margherita pizza to get the full, NY pizza experience and we were not disappointed. It was a full pizza size, not like the usual GF pizza which is so much smaller than regular pizzas (why is that anyway?) And at just $15 I was quite surprised, expecting NY to have a much higher starting price. After taking the first bite of the pizza, my daughter looked at me and said, “We’re gonna’ need another one.” She was right. I ordered two more…one for the table and one for the next day. The four of us devoured the pizzas much too quickly, but we had no control. The crust was chewy inside and crunchy on the outside, the sauce was slightly sweet the way it should be, and the mozzarella was fresh and melty. I’m still dreaming of it at night.

The cute store across the street, which I loved.

We opted out of the flourless chocolate cake to hit the market and gelato stand across the street. Now, I wish I’d had the cake, but I knew I couldn’t eat that much and I would have had no control. The saying, “Well, we’re only here for a short time,” seemed to give us carte blanche to eat anything we wanted, and as much as we wanted. I’m paying the price now, but it was worth it!

I highly recommend Keste Pizza & Vino and I know I’ll be back again and again, every time I have a chance to go to NY. I like to imagine I’m one of those super wealthy people who can order whatever they want and have it delivered, even if it’s cheesecake from Boston or bagels from New Jersey. I would order this, no question.

The pizza is just as good the next day, cold. We packed it in our bags and headed out to Central Park for a day in the sun. Perfect food to munch on in the city, don’t you think?

Stay tuned for the Mac & Cheese adventure in the East Village!

Perfection on a plate!

Cold pizza in Central Park. Just like the good old days, yum!

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Filed under cheese, crust, dinner, dough, mozzarella, pizza, Pizza Crust, restaurants, review, rice flour, Takeout Gluten-free Pizza, vegetarian, wine

Gluten-Free PB&J The Way The Big Girls Do It

Switch out fresh fruit for the jelly

My mom turned me on to this gourmet version of a PB&J. Simply toast your favorite gluten-free bread (I use Udi‘s) and top with a natural chunky peanut butter, sliced fresh strawberries and a drizzle of raw honey. It’s light, healthy, and a wonderful way to start the day. I had this with my coffee this morning and it was a real treat.

I’ve also used bananas and blueberries, and my daughter has used sliced grapes. Someone else suggested blueberries and I’m thinking even sliced peaches, apples, or pears would be great. The sky’s the limit when it comes to fresh, in-season fruit. Have fun.

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Filed under breakfast, dinner, gluten free, honey, peanut butter, strawberries, toast, Udi's, vegetarian

The Pizza Quest Continues

Naked Pizza in my car, oh yeah!

Still on my quest for the best GF pizza, Daughter and I took a long trek out to the northwest of Phoenix to try Naked Pizza. They boast a gluten-free crust and all precautions for cross contamination including changing gloves, separate area and separate toppings for GF pizzas. Watch this video on their page (right side of the page) if you’re interested.

But, bottom line, how did it taste? If any of you remember Pizza Hut’s thin crust pizza (from pre-GF days), this comes closest to that. The texture is chewy and thin, like a thick cracker, but better. It is beautifully lacking in that gluten-free funny taste that so many GF items seem to have. It’s crispy, chewy, and light, making it much too easy to eat an entire ½ of a pizza in one sitting. (What? Shhhhh)
Unfortunately, there are no tables in these pizza joints. There are a few around town, all of which are too far from me for a quick bite. Without inside seating, that means you have to find somewhere to eat it. Now if you live close by, that’s not a problem. Take it home and enjoy it in front of the big game. But if you’re traveling about 30 minutes on the freeway to try it, (I know, crazy huh?) that leaves a dilemma. We ended up finding a pleasant spot and sitting in the car and eating it. That was actually quite fun, I might even eat another pizza in my car (shhh).
Although pizzas come in multiple sizes, GF pizzas are only one size (12″). They start at $9.99 and toppings are additional. One pizza with ½ pineapple and ½ mushrooms, a bottle of water, and a soda came to about $17 (including tax). Sounds about right for a GF pizza these days. Much less than making it yourself or even a frozen pizza, but a fresh pizza comes at a cost. And, we’ll never have a $5 Dominoes special anymore will we? But then again, would you really want that?
I’m giving this one two thumbs up as far as crust goes. But I suppose it’s better for us that it’s so far away. Any closer and I’d be spending a lot more on pizza.

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Filed under dinner, gluten free, Naked Pizza, pizza, Takeout Gluten-free Pizza, vegetarian